Neighbours and strangers pitch in for Woodlands e-scooter fire victims

Mr Shah Rizal Abdul Razak and his wife Haryati Ali with their cat Bobo in the flat that was temporarily offered to them by a neighbour who is working overseas.
Mr Shah Rizal Abdul Razak and his wife Haryati Ali with their cat Bobo in the flat that was temporarily offered to them by a neighbour who is working overseas.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

A fire, sparked by an electric scooter battery, destroyed his Woodlands flat two months ago but Mr Shah Rizal Abdul Razak reckons he is somewhat lucky. He escaped unscathed on Sept 22, although tragically, he lost two of his four cats.

The 34-year-old and his wife Haryati Ali, 31, are also thankful for neighbours who pitched in to help.

Take, for example, Mr Izzul Arifin Gazali, 34. He invited Mr Rizal to stay at his unoccupied home.

Mr Rizal's four-room unit is on the sixth floor of Block 886B, Woodlands Drive 50, while Mr Izzul's unit is on the 11th floor.

Mr Rizal, a civil servant, said: "He works as a nurse in Australia. When he heard about the fire, he reached out to us on Facebook and told us that we could stay at his flat for as long as we wanted."

The publicity-shy neighbour, who will be abroad for another year, said: "I did it out of goodwill."

And he has not been the only neighbour to lend a helping hand.

For two weeks after the fire, Ms Khadijah Ali, 33, who lives next door to Mr Rizal, left a donation box outside his unit. It was for people who might turn up out of curiosity after hearing about the fire.

GENEROUS NEIGHBOUR

He works as a nurse in Australia. When he heard about the fire, he reached out to us on Facebook and told us that we could stay at his flat for as long as we wanted.

MR SHAH RIZAL ABDUL RAZAK, whose Woodlands flat was destroyed in a fire on Sept 22, talking about a helpful neighbour.

Ms Haryati, a receptionist, said their neighbours, and even strangers, raised $3,000 for them.

Then on Oct 26, home appliance company Midea Singapore donated over $5,000 worth of home appliances including a refrigerator, washing machine, rice cooker, vacuum cleaner, kettle, and even an air-conditioning unit.

"We were quite shocked. These things are essentials we need in our home," Ms Haryati said.

 
 
 

The couple's friends and family organised bake sales which raised $500. Another $2,500 was raised on a crowdfunding page on Give.asia that was set up by the couple's neighbour, Ms Maslindah Sain.

The 44-year-old instructional assistant at the Singapore American School calls herself their "personal assistant". "I helped them liaise with companies, like Midea, who wanted to donate. For now, we can't accept any more donations because there's no more storage space."

The Singapore Civil Defence Force has classified the fire as an electrical accident sparked by Mr Rizal's e-scooter battery. The incident was followed by a spate of fires in Singapore involving electric personal mobility devices, with the latest incident on Nov 8 in Pasir Ris.

Mr Rizal and his wife expect to spend around $20,000 to refurbish their home - the same amount they spent three years ago when they renovated the unit. Renovation works have started and they expect to move back by next year.

It has been a struggle but they have been overwhelmed by the acts of kindness, the couple said.

Mr Rizal said: "My wife and I are coping... slowly but surely. Life still goes on, so we choose not to think so much about what has happened."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2017, with the headline 'Neighbours and strangers pitch in for e-scooter fire victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe